Sad to say, Doc Watson has reached the end of the line. He passed on Tuesday evening. For complete coverage, go here. And take comfort knowing that Doc and Merle are together again up in heaven. I'm thinking there will be some hot pickin' up there tonight.
Eons ago, when I was a kid, I remember spending a lot of time with a record called "Music: How It's Made and Played." It was an orchestral-music primer, introducing all the different instruments and the way they blended together, and it had that Disney knack for making the subject both accessible and mysterious. When all those instruments cranked up together, it sounded like the spookiest soundtrack ever.
Somehow, The Polyphonic Spree conjures up that same feeling. The group played Cat's Cradle Saturday night, their first Triangle show in some years, delivering another lovely dose of rapture. It's odd to think of a 15-piece band as "stripped down"; nevertheless, this was indeed the leanest version of the Spree that I've ever seen. Flautist Audrey Easley was missing, and this configuration also didn't have harp or theremin.
But Tim Delaughter, the Walt Disney of symphonic indie-rock spectacle, was still out front, channeling his and your inner child. There was also a xylophone, a three-piece horn section and a killer cello player. And even though they didn't do the one that always make me mist up, they did "Soldier Girl," "When the Fool Becomes a King" and a drop-dead perfect medley of "See Me Feel Me/Listening to You"-"Pinball Wizard" (if ever a band was meant to cover The Who, it's Polyphonic Spree).
There was laughter, a lot of jumping up and down, smiling -- plus confetti. Lots and lots of confetti. A joyous 90 minutes of bittersweet whimsy that left me feeling 8 years old again, and that's always a good thing.
So why weren’t you there?
(Photo: Patty Chase)
From David Holt, the latest on Doc Watson, hospitalized since Monday:
Doc Watson is in critical but improved condition after undergoing colon surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The family appreciates everyone's prayers and good wishes.
Let's keep the good thoughts coming, folks. And you can check updates here.
UPDATE (3:30 pm Sunday): It may or may not mean anything dire, but reports are that Watson's family has been summoned to his bedside.
The legendary guitarist, who turned 89 years old in March, was admitted to Watauga Medical Center on Monday after taking a fall at his Deep Gap home. On Thursday, he was transferred to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
Reports indicate he is being treated for pneumonia and possibly kidney failure. But Watson did not break any bones in the fall, according to his longtime onstage playing partner David Holt.
"He is a stout man who has lived 89 years with very little sickness and always been quite healthy," Holt said Thursday afternoon. "So we're hoping."
One of the giants of 20th century American music, Watson pioneered a lightning-fast style of flatpicking that has been influential among rock as well as folk musicians. His many accolades include seven Grammy Awards, as well as a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.
Watson is scheduled to perform June 30 at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, a show called "Celebrating Doc." In 2008, at age 85, he was playing shows just a month after major surgery to remove a growth from a lung.
By David Menconi
RALEIGH – Give any band enough time, and it will inevitably turn into an oldies act. Consider Jane’s Addiction, once the coolest band in the land but nowadays a group that evokes an aging stripper who still has the moves and not much else.
Jane’s Addiction played Memorial Auditorium Tuesday night, drawing a half-full house consisting mostly of folks old enough to have witnessed the band’s early-1990s peak as creators of the Lollapalooza Festival. Two decades on, Lollapalooza still exists as an uber-hip alternative-rock festival in Chicago. Jane’s, meanwhile, is still partying like it's 1991. Fully two-thirds of Tuesday’s set list consisted of songs from more than 20 years ago, resulting in a performance as oldies-heavy as Van Halen's show last month.
Back in its day, Jane’s was less a band than a moment in time. “Nothing’s Shocking,” declared the title of the group’s first big-league album 24 years ago, and it evoked the pornography of everyday life – the sex and violence lurking beneath pretty placid suburban surfaces. Jane’s Addiction dragged all that out into the open and made it a communal experience, as disturbing as it was glorious.
That made sense in 1988, when "Don't Worry Be Happy" was as much a socio-political mindset as a chart-topping hit. In 2012, when everything is already out in the open and titillation beyond your sickest fantasy is just an internet connection away, there’s something almost quaint about Jane’s Addiction’s pervy peep-show vibe. Creepy as it is, it's just kind of pointless.
But they’re still serving it up, because that’s seemingly all they've got. Tuesday’s show featured plenty of visual accompaniment, including a couple of scantily clad female dancers and a dude who did weird things while wearing strange outfits. During “Twisted Tales,” he was done up like the Elephant Man and flinging baby dolls around.
The sound was a muddy roar (which didn’t stop one of the guys behind the sound board from literally jumping up and down), but the fact that frontman Perry Farrell’s vocals were virtually unintelligible throughout the show was not a huge deal. It’s always been about the sound of his sonic-boom voice, not the words.
“Up the Beach” demonstrated this in spades, communicating plenty of angst with Farrell’s wordless howl soaring over guitarist Dave Navarro’s crushing riffage. “Been Caught Stealing” was also effective, thanks to a groove that’s still as unstoppable as it was in 1990.
But too many other songs just fizzled on the launchpad, and it was hard to figure out why the show wasn’t more engaging. The band still played well, and its sonic template remains one of the most distinctive in contemporary rock, even if the newer songs from last year’s “The Great Escape Artist” didn’t seem like much.
Ultimately, it all seemed hollow, signifying…not much. Maybe it was because everyone, audience as well as band, is just too much older (if not wiser) by now. Or maybe it was the fact that Jane’s has never evolved and grown beyond its moment.
The last song played Tuesday night was “Stop!” At this point, sad to say, that wouldn’t be bad advice.
Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat
Tuesday's Drake concert in Raleigh has been postponed due to personal issues. The rapper/actor was to perform at Raleigh's Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, topping a bill also featuring Fayetteville native J. Cole. But the show has been postponed until
June 19 June 20. Also postponed was Drake's Wednesday concert at Virginia Beach.
A statement cited "an unforeseen personal family matter," adding that Drake "looks forward to performing for his fans soon and thanks them in advance for their understanding during this time."
Tickets purchased for Tuesday's show will be honored at the June 20 date with no exchange necessary. For further details, go to livenation.com or call 800/745-3000.
So Mick Jagger hosted this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" season finale, prompting rumors about his Rolling Stones bandmates turning up for the musical portion of the program. That didn't come to pass, but what they came up with was still way cool -- collaborations between the host and Foo Fighters, Jeff Beck and most of all Arcade Fire, who backed Jagger up on an at-times ragged yet great rendition of "The Last Time."
For good measure, Jagger led Arcade Fire and the rest of the cast in playing a very nice goodbye serenade to departing cast member Kristen Wiig at the close of the show.
People ask if rock 'n' roll will ever die, and to that I say no. Why? Because kids are just too awesome to ever let it happen, that's why. And here are two compelling pieces of evidence: Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Play 'em loud. And somebody get these two in a "School of Rock"-type band together.
Well, today seems to be the day for festival announcements. In addition to the IBMA news, we also have YR15 -- a three-night bash in honor of local label Yep Roc Records' 15-year anniversary. That will happen Oct. 11-13 at Cat's Cradle with a lineup featuring some of the finest acts from the Grammy-winning label's roster, including Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock, Fountains of Wayne, John Doe and more. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday. Check here for details.
Also on the festival front, the latest TRKfest has been set for July 21. It will again be at Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro (with Haw River Ballroom as a backup venue if the weather's bad). Lineup details still to come.
RALEIGH -- North Carolina may or may not be the home of bluegrass. But for at least three years, it will be home of the World of Bluegrass.
As expected, the International Bluegrass Music Association announced on Wednesday that it will bring its weeklong convention and awards show to Raleigh for a three-year run starting in 2013. Russell Johnson and the Grass Cats opened and closed Wednesday's announcement ceremony on downtown's City Plaza by playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and other bluegrass classics.
But the big moment was mayor Nancy McFarlane unveiling a banner showing Raleigh's World of Bluegrass dates. Comprising a four-day business conference, an awards show and a three-day "Bluegrass Fan Fest" with more than 60 acts, next year's Raleigh edition of IBMA will be Sept. 23-29, 2013.
The 2011 convention's events in Nashville drew a reported 16,000 total visitors, more than half from out of town. Raleigh city officials project similar figures for next year's World of Bluegrass, estimating the local economic impact at more than $9.9 million.
On Wednesday, various speakers touted the event's bottom-line potential as well as North Carolina's illustrious bluegrass history. Earl Scruggs, Red Smiley, Doc Watson and George Shuffler are among the North Carolina natives who are in the IBMA's Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and Brevard's Steep Canyon Rangers shared the IBMA's artist-of-the-year award with Steve Martin last year.
Since 2005, the IBMA's World of Bluegrass has been in Nashville, where it's one of many awards shows. Seeking a higher profile, the IBMA board has been looking to relocate the show. More than a dozen cities made overtures, with Raleigh, Nashville, Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky., emerging as major contenders.
"One thing that really sold us on Raleigh was all the options here and how compact they are," said IBMA board member Jon Weisberger. "We don't have to choose whether or not to do shows indoors or outdoors, we can do both. And the convention center, amphitheater and other venues are all right here."
The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts complex will also be a venue, along with other downtown nightclubs and Fayetteville Street. New IBMA board member William Lewis likened World of Bluegrass to Hopscotch, the successful rock festival that happens every September in Raleigh.
"We think this will be like a bluegrass version of Hopscotch," said Lewis, who is also executive director of Raleigh-based PineCone (Piedmont Council of Traditional Music). "It's an event that will seize the synergy of downtown and engage audiences and venues beyond just music -- photographers, artists, galleries. It could be a signature event for downtown."